Ideas: Every Family Needs a Red Plate


For many years the “Red Plate” has been our favorite family tradition.  It is just that–a bright red plate with white hand painted lettering along the edge that reads, “YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY.”  It came with the following explanation:

The Red Plate is the perfect way to acknowledge a family member’s special triumphs, to celebrate a birthday or praise a job well done, reward a goal achieved, or simply to say, “YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY.”  When the Red Plate is used, any meal becomes a celebration honoring a special person, event, or deed.  It is a visible reminder of love and esteem.  The Red Plate — make it a tradition in your family, symbolizing the good and happy times.  It will speak volumes of love when words just aren’t enough.

The Idea In Action:

The “Red Plate” is one of the best ways we have found to bring joy, affirmation, and encouragement to different members of our family and friends.  Whenever we have a guest for dinner, he or she gets the “Red Plate.”  Whenever there is a special occasion–from birthdays, the first night home after being at camp or college, finishing a hard project or getting a good grade on a test, that person gets the “Red Plate.” (I have even heard of families who bring it with them to a restaurant when they are having a surprise party for someone!)

However, the most important use for our Red Plate, I think, has been for the hard times, those times when someone has worked and worked to get a part in a play or make a team or win an election, and they have been disappointed.  Someone in the family always makes sure they get the “Red Plate” that day as a symbol that they are still special, no matter what has happened.

One of my favorite stories about the Red Plate was at a time when our daughter Erin had just gotten home from the hospital and could not return to school for a few more days.  She called me at work one of those mornings to tell me she had folded some clothes for me.  I said, “Oh, Honey, thank you.  That was really nice.  Why don’t you have the Red Plate for lunch?”  She responded, “Oh, Mom, can I?”  The Red Plate is always there in the cupboard, but you can see the special significance it has for our family. I now always give it as a shower or wedding gift to special young couples who are starting their own family traditions.

Several years ago I gave the Red Plate to the Robert Freeman family of Lansing, Michigan, and they have found a very special use for it.  Since their children are all grown and live all around the country, they sometimes are only all together at Christmas. They started a tradition that each year at Christmas the family votes on who has accomplished or grown the most during the past year, and that person is rewarded by getting to take the Red Plate to their home to use for the next year.  Robert related the decision process to me for 1998.  He said each of his children had a wonderful year–Jamille is going to teach in Japan for the coming year, Cynthia moved from Iowa to Texas, and Chevelle also moved and got a huge promotion.  (Robert says he doesn’t say much but just runs the meeting.)  The final decision was that all those things were wonderful but sort of “run of the mill” for the girls.  The person who really deserved the Red Plate was Dion because he finished his Bachelor’s Degree, the greatest accomplishment of all!


The “Red Plate” can be purchased at many Hallmark and gift stores or ordered from the address in the Resource section of the book.  You can also simply make or buy your own version of a “red plate.”  It is a fun and visible way to create a new family tradition and to show support, encouragement, and love.  Legends grow up around who got the “Red Plate” and why, and you can even write on the back of the plate with a permanent marker the different times you have used it.  Over the years the “Red Plate” has been the bearer of many deposits in family members’ emotional bank accounts!

Order the “Red Plate” from Barbara by going to Fun Accessories section of Barbara’s store.

Barbara Glanz Biography

A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at and

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